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Most resorts install their sensors during the summer when
the area is easy to access. Deploying the sensors over a larger
area provides a better picture of the entire resort. With this
information, artificial snow is easier to produce and steer,
making it more cost-effective to manage snowmaking.
Height of snow
Ryan Evanczyk, director of snow safety at Arapahoe Basin
(A-Basin) Ski Patrol, says his team measures snow depth or
“height of snow” (HS) in two ways. They have an SR50A so-nar
from Campbell Scientific that measures snow depth, and
they manually measure HS by physically going to one of three
weather stations each day to look at a large snow stake with
inch and centimeter increments.
A-Basin also has a snow stake that measures HS during
storms which is not touched until the storm is over. This also
helps the team track snow settlement over time.
“This is helpful for long-term operations planning as well as
daily or short-term operations,” said Evanczyk. “In order to
make daily operational decisions regarding terrain or mitiga-tion,
we need to know how much snow we have received in
the last 24 hours, 48 hours or longer, and more importantly,
how much water we have received in that new snow.”
Evanczyk says that to make informed, timely and proper
operational decisions, the team needs to know how much
snow the resort has received, how much water is in the snow
and where the wind distributed it. In addition to wind speed
and direction, they need to know and collect other weather
variable trends in the last 24 hours including barometric
pressure trends, relative humidity, ambient temperatures,
long and short wave radiation, snow temperatures at differ-ent
elevations in the snowpack and water movement.
A-Basin has several different measurement devices at its
three weather stations as well as its sonars. By analyzing
the previous 24 hours, or longer, historical trends and look-ing
at the structure of the snowpack, they are able to make
informed decisions and forecast what the avalanche hazard
and related avalanche problems will be in every ski zone on
a daily basis.
“This information is disseminated daily to our ski patrol
staff where it helps us prioritize our day and make informed
decisions,” said Evanczyk. “Our morning weather and ava-lanche
forecast is also distributed to other operational and ad-ministrative
departments allowing them to plan accordingly.”
He says that this information helps staff forecast the
avalanche hazard on a daily basis. Staff also use historical
data to compare previous years against current weather or
avalanche cycle trends. When certain parameters are met,
A-Basin can begin to forecast and predict what will be ob-served.
This data is also passed along to the Colorado Ava-lanche
All of this data collection and sharing is critical to the re-sort’s
success. “It is important for our ski patrol so that we
can make informed and safe decisions about mitigating, trav-eling
and opening or closing avalanche terrain, which ulti-mately
impacts our guests,” said Evanczyk. “Snow also sells
and drives our guests to our ski area. Guests want to know
“In order to make daily
regarding terrain or
mitigation, we need to
know how much snow
we have received in the
last 24 hours, 48 hours
or longer, and more
importantly, how much
water we have received
in that new snow.”
– Ryan Evanczyk, Arapahoe Basin Ski Patrol
14 September 2020 | snowopsmag.com